The Government looks set to win this week’s crucial Dáil vote on the European Union-International Monetary Fund rescue deal having secured the support of three independent TDs to back the motion and ensure a slim majority.
Fine Gael yesterday moved forward its decision on the issue by two days, announcing that it would be voting against the motion at the conclusion of the two-hour debate on the memorandum of understanding in the Dáil next Wednesday.
The main opposition party had not been expected to make a formal decision until its front bench met on Tuesday. In a surprise move, a party spokesman confirmed yesterday that it would be voting against what it described as a bad deal that needed to be renegotiated.
Party finance spokesman Michael Noonan said the party would treat the debate as if it were a motion of confidence in the Government and would base its arguments on the failures of the Government and not on the content of the memorandum itself.
However, the Government last night claimed that Fine Gael had brought forward its decision to quell what it said was the embarrassment of emerging divisions within the front bench on the party’s approach.
A Government spokesman said enterprise spokesman Richard Bruton seemed to have suggested this weekend the party might back the plan, while energy spokesman Leo Varadkar had said it would vote against. However, Mr Bruton said last night he had adopted no public position and had no problem with the party opposing the plan.
Labour and Sinn Féin have already said their TDs will vote against the motion on the memorandum of understanding.
Any prospect though of a government defeat was dispelled when it was confirmed that three independent TDs – Michael Lowry, Jackie Healy-Rae and Joe Behan – will all vote with the Government.
Separately, the backbench Fianna Fáil TD Mattie McGrath indicated he would vote against the Government unless the deal was changed to reduce what he said were “punitive” interest rates and to impose a maximum salary cap of €200,000.
Mr McGrath told The Irish Times l ast night that he had written to the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank over the weekend, asking them to change the terms of the draft memorandum.
In the event of Mr McGrath voting against the motion, the Government should still win the Dáil vote by 82 votes to 80 in the absence of any further revolts from within Fianna Fáil or the Green Party. That is considered very unlikely.
Government Chief Whip John Curran said yesterday he believed the Government would have the numbers to pass this motion without the support of the opposition.
Mr Lowry, a TD for Tipperary North, told The Irish Times that both he and Mr Healy-Rae, from Kerry South, would vote with the Government. “It’s right that it gets a Dáil endorsement. My understanding is that there would be huge consequences if somebody legally challenged it on the basis of it not having Oireachtas approval.”
Mr Behan, who represents Wicklow, said his support was the logical culmination of his support for the Budget last week. “Really there is no alternative. We need this money if we are going to survive as an economy. How are Fine Gael going to come up with the money?”
The Fine Gael spokesman said it would vote against it for three reasons: it was a bad deal, elements needed to be renegotiated and Fine Gael, through leader Enda Kenny, had more influence with the European Commission than the Government.
Earlier, Mr Curran challenged Mr Kenny to support the motion. In a statement, he attacked Mr Kenny for what he called his “glib line” for not supporting the Government, namely that it had the necessary numbers.
The IMF board in Washington has delayed its decision on endorsing the memorandum on Thursday to accommodate the Dáil vote
Again all I can say is that we the people of Wicklow have been betrayed by the so-called independent TD for Wicklow
This guy is happy to saddle me and my family along with the rest of Ireland with the private debts of billionaires, he supported the robbery of the lowest paid workers and the mugging of the blind and care workers and all the time keeping his own salery because he thinks Brian Cowen is the greatest Fianna Fail leader!
What a Twit !